People perceive, judge, and behave differently in disasters and in a wide range of other difficult situations depending on their personal characteristics. The power to live, as captured by characteristics that are advantageous for survival in such situations, has thus far been modeled in arbitrary ways. Conceptualizing such characteristics in more objective ways may be helpful for systematic preparations for future disasters and life difficulties. Here, we attempted to identify the major factors of the power to live by summarizing the opinions of survivors of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake disaster. We conducted personal interviews with 78 survivors about their survival experiences and elicited their opinions about the power to live as relevant to those experiences. We then incorporated these opinions into a questionnaire that was completed by 1400 survivors. Factor analysis identified eight factors related to the power to live: leadership, problem solving, altruism, stubbornness, etiquette, emotional regulation, self-transcendence, and active well-being. All factors had sufficient internal construct validity, and six of them showed significant associations with one or more measures of survival success in the disaster, including immediate tsunami evacuation, problem solving in refugee situations, recovery during reconstruction, physical health, and mental health. Overall, the personal characteristics described by the eight factors largely overlap with those described in previous arbitrary models. Further research should investigate the domains, phases, and contexts in which each factor contributes to survival, address whether the factors are rooted in nature or in nurture, and explore their psychological or physiological bases.